Monday, November 18, 2013

Showing True Love to Others Requires Truth

Hammers and Fire – Agents of Change
Barbara Henderson

Have you ever considered different practical ways that people show their love for someone else?  I’m sure you could make up a list of things that you do that give real evidence that you love someone particular, your family, your church family, and people in general.  You know what you are thinking, and you know what the intentions are behind your actions.  It is quite a bit harder to correctly interpret other people’s actions because you don’t know what they are actually trying to do or the message they are trying to convey.  The problem comes in that no one is able to rightly interpret exactly what you need in the way of help; of, if they do know what you actually need and want it may not be within their capability to actually give you or do for you what you want.  All you can do is do the best you can when dealing with others, and accept things people do for you as doing the best they can considering what is going on in his/her life at that time. 

You don’t have any control over how other people behave.  You can’t make them treat you in a particular way or give you exactly what you need/want at the perfect moment.  You do have control over how you treat others.  For an individual to treat others well there is a key element.  That is love.  To treat your spouse, children, parents, and extended family well requires that you must love them more than you love yourself.  You put their needs and even their wants above your own.  We could go on about this for days.  What are they ways you show unselfishness to others?  Where do you draw the line?  What about what you can give someone or do for someone in contrast to what they actually want or expect from you?  And on and on and on.  The point is to consistently love them more than you love yourself.  This enables you to do what you need to do.  The more you love someone the easier it is to set aside your own wants in order to do something for that person.  If your family is made up of deeply committed Christians, then they are also supposed to love you more than they love themselves.  Ultimately, the sacrifices made for a loving Christian family are repaid in the sacrifices they make for you.  There is joy in seeing their joy.  They have joy in seeing your joy.  It is win, win, win for everyone.

But if you had to pare it down to one simple action that you do for your loved ones, what would be the most important? That one thing is to tell the truth.  This you can do regardless of your social or economic status, your age, your health, your personality, and anything other circumstances in your life.  Obviously that doesn’t mean tell someone, ‘The jeans don’t make you look fat.  You look fat because you are fat.’  It means tell the truth.  That means the unadorned truth.  You can tell the truth with compassion.  You can tell it with the spirit of love that comes from loving that person more than you love yourself.  But the truth is what is of utmost importance, and the truth is what you must speak.  No sound decisions can be made, no right actions can be taken, no good thing can come from something based on lies!  Yes, little lies matter. 

And no-where is the truth more important than when you speak the truth of Bible.  What every Christian needs to always remember is the Bible is full of harsh realities.  Notably, there is the reality of hell.  There is the reality of various sorrows, trials, uncertainties, death, and trouble affecting individuals throughout the Bible.  That is the truth!  When the modern church preaches a very happy life through proper amounts of giving and thinking happy thoughts the church is lying.  The joy of the Lord is very real, but that joy is not bound to circumstances.  Christians often experience many good things in their lives, but they are not exempt from sorrow and trials. 

The Bible is also full of Jesus Christ and how individuals can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ the savior.  The Bible is very clear.  We live once.  We die once.  And then we face eternity.  Believers will face the final judgment as children adopted into the family of God.  They will have an eternity spent in heaven as a joint heir with Jesus Christ Himself.  Those who face eternity without Jesus Christ will spend eternity in hell.  That is the unvarnished truth, or the dark sayings of old mentioned in the Bible.  People don’t like that reality.  It sounds so harsh and filled with sorrow. So, the plan is to avoid the subject for most people.  I can understand that for people who don’t know they have options!  Many people actually don’t know they have the option of heaven through Jesus Christ.  Death is the big question mark, and for these people it is just better to avoid the subject all together.

People want to know the truth.  They want some assurance about what is going to happen when they die. They definitely want to avoid hell if there is a hell.  They want to go to heaven if there is a heaven.  They actually don’t know what heaven really is, but reason tells them that heaven is going to be a better place than hell. 

These people often make it into a Christian church on a Sunday morning.  And there they hear the sweet things of the Bible.  They hear, ‘God loves you. God wants you to be happy. Come to Jesus and see the good things that happen in your life.  And support the work of the church and just watch Jesus bless you personally.’

But they don’t hear the truth that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven.  They don’t hear the truth that Jesus Christ does not mingle with false ways and silly little gods of this world.

People often avoid telling the blunt truth of Jesus Christ because of two things.  First they are simply uncomfortable with speaking out.  This can be overcome by gaining a better vision of the future.  Specifically you want to see the future of those who reconcile to God through Jesus Christ and those who reject Jesus.  One is spending eternity in heaven and one is spending eternity in hell.  If you could wave a magic wand and put someone on the Titanic on a safe ocean liner would you do it?  Of course you would.  Lost souls are sinking into hell.  You have the truth that will put off the ship that is sinking into hell and onto that old Ship of Zion that is going to heaven. 

Another reason people don’t speak up with the truth of Jesus Christ is the fear of offending someone who is already offended by the gospel.  Many people simply don’t want to hear it.  But if they don’t hear it how will they ever come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is like they have a shell of titanium covering their hearts and conscience.  Now, sweet words of the good life Jesus is promising them is like rubbing a chunk of titanium with a tiny piece of fine sandpaper.  The effect is going to be negligible.  You will never get through to the conscience that is under the barrier.  On the other hand, there is the fire and hammer approach.  No, I do no mean you can brow-beat someone into accepting Jesus Christ.  But they do have to hear the gospel presented in a clear manner.  Nothing has the power to break through the shell over a conscience except the good news of Jesus Christ. (Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?  Jeremiah 23:29  )  The truth of Jesus Christ is both the hammer and the fire that can bring about the change a person needs to step into the eternal safety offered by Jesus Christ alone.

To avoid telling the unvarnished truth of Jesus Christ and the way into heaven is not loving.  Yet, that is what many churches are doing!  They are so caught up in telling the world that Jesus loves them that they forget there is a lot more to the story.  That is like focusing on Christmas but forgetting Easter!  Yes, Jesus came as a baby, but He also lived a life of sacrifice and suffering which ended with Him being nailed to a cross.  And the rest of that story is He rose from the dead proving His power of death.  It isn’t really about having that perfect life here on earth that you imagined.  It isn’t about finding your soul mate or living your dream of a nice house and car and lovely vacations.  It is about entering the kingdom of heaven for eternity and escaping hell.  It is about showing your love and respect for God Almighty who saved you!  The devil builds fortresses around the hearts and minds of those who belong to him.  Sweet words, platitudes, and forming alliances with the world will not break down these barriers.  It takes the fire and the hammer of God’s Holy Word to get through to these people.  Fortunately, the power is in God.  It isn’t in us or how well we present the gospel, or how powerful our words happen to be, or how much emotion we can stir up in someone, or anything else that is in us as individuals.  It is in the simple truth of the Bible. 

I recently listened to a series on the apostles and their different personalities and characteristics.  It was comforting to learn that Jesus used such a variety of people. He used introverts, extroverts, impulsive, reserved, determined, wishy-washy, older, younger, brave, and even sometimes cowardly.  Jesus used the willing.  That’s all.  It wasn’t their own charisma or brilliance.  He took these frail imperfect men and used them to point many to the entrance to heaven.  After Jesus’ assentation to heaven each apostle preached the gospel without apology, relying on the power of God and not their own.  Once again it was the fire and hammer of God’s word and His power that enabled them to avoid compromise.  It is that same power that will enable individual Christians to speak the truth of the way into heaven without compromise. 

Nothing is more irritating that a supposed Christian saying something like ‘Well – Christianity works for me’ as though something else may work for someone else.  The truth is it ‘works’ for anyone who accepts Jesus’ offer of entrance into heaven through accepting Him as the way, the truth, and the life.  Christianity is not a philosophy designed to help people cope with life. It is the truth of God Almighty.  It is the only means by which one can be reconciled to the God who created him/her.  First believe and you have gained eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.  Then be obedient to God’s instructions as written down for us in the Bible.   (And don’t forget to be thankful.)

The unvarnished truth is becoming a rarity in the pulpit of all places!  Preachers of the gospel go on stage with the sole purpose of presenting an uplifting sermon.  That want to help the congregation experience the Lord.  They have forgotten their job is to clearly tell people how to be reconciled to God, and explain the consequences of NOT reconciling to God during their life time.  The second aspect of the preacher’s job is to teach believers the rules by which God requires them to live.  And, he is to love them more than he loves himself.  The New Testament tells many times that Jesus was motivated by compassion.  His compassion caused Him to act on behalf of those in need.  But we are never told that His compassion involved dumbing down the gospel or trying to make people feel good or have an emotional experience.  I am sure that there is no doubt that people often felt better and were quite emotional when they met Jesus, but those feelings were never the reason for His actions.  And neither should they be the reasons for our actions or lack of actions.  All we have to do is speak the truth as it is written in the Bible.  We don’t have power or authority to change the message.  If people don’t like the message they don’t have to listen to it.  If they don’t like the message they can take it up with God.  But don’t expect the messenger to change the message.  Don’t expect the messenger to avoid giving people in need the message of salvation!  As messengers in the service of Jesus Christ the King the job of Christians is to consistently tell the truth.

For our God is a consuming fire!  Hebrews 12:29

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